Senate Democrats

Reid: Commitment To Iraq Hinders Our Ability To Respond To Crisis In Pakistan, Others Around The World

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Starting this weekend, we have seen a crisis unfold in Pakistan, where a leader that the Administration has considered a partner in the fight against terrorism and extremism has taken steps to reverse course away from the path to democracy and has suspended fundamental human rights in the process.  This unfolding crisis must be watched very carefully, and we must be prepared to respond to protect our security and national interests. 

“I hope all sides will show restraint.  President Musharraf must keep the promise he made when he took power nearly eight years ago to put Pakistan back on the path toward democracy.  I call upon General Musharraf to return to the Constitutional rule of law, release the lawyers and other peaceful protestors that he has imprisoned, and restore the path to free and fair elections as early as possible.

“Let me also say this: this situation is also a reminder of why we need a change of course in Iraq.  By staying so bogged down in an Iraqi civil war, President Bush has made it harder to respond to this and other challenges throughout the world.  The Iraq war leaves Secretary of State Rice, Admiral Fallon and other officials responsible for the Middle East and South Asia with no strategic reserve to respond to humanitarian and other crisis situations.   

“We are reminded that, while the Administration has been so focused on Iraq, it has failed to craft an effective strategy for eliminating what a recent National Intelligence Estimate described as an al Qaeda safe haven in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border regions, and it has failed to catch Osama Bin Laden or his No. 2 – Zawahiri.

“So today I also call upon President Bush to conduct an expedited end-to-end review of his national security strategy as it relates to the war on terror and Pakistan, including a review of U.S. aid to Pakistan.  I hope President Bush will take a good look at the costs and missed opportunities caused by his stay-the-course approach in Iraq, and take steps to craft a more effective strategy for addressing the threats and challenges America faces across the globe.”